If you are building a yard to function like the prototype, you are probably already using or considering some sort of car forwarding system as part of your operating plan. If your yard crews will do more than just move cars, they need a place to do their paperwork.
Give your operators a convenient place to work and not only will the operations improve, you'll keep all that activity off the finished layout where it belongs. A simple yard office requires only a few basic elements, most of which can be mounted on the layout fascia.
- Sorting Bins for Waybills: If your cars move by any sort of paper car forwarding system, you need a place to sort the paperwork. Generally, a bin for each track in the yard works most efficiently. Build the bins large enough to hold all of the cars necessary for a full track. Cup hooks are an easy-to-install substitute if you punch a hole in the cards.
- Writing / Work Surface: It doesn’t have to be big, but a flat work surface to sort cards and write notes is a necessity. If you don’t provide such a place, chances are the layout itself will become the operators' desk whether you like it or not.
- Pencil / Tool Holders: Provide a place to hold pencils, uncoupling sticks, clips and other essentials to keep them safe and off the scenery. Don’t forget the switch crew’s throttle and any radios or communications devices you use.
- Control Panel: Make sure the control panel for the yard is in a convenient location and well labeled. Could a new operator run this panel without any instructions?
- Creature Comforts: It’s nice for operators to keep a drink or snack handy without the temptation of putting it on the layout. Collapsible drink and snack holders are available through hobby suppliers. Some aftermarket auto accessories can be easily adapted as well. While you’re adding creature comfort, consider some carpeting or a chair / stool and adequate lighting. One simple operator comfort that is surprisingly often overlooked is labeling. We become so familiar with our layouts that we often don't see the need to explain things to our guests. Location names, signals, compass directions, mileposts, block and track numbers or names can all make operations much easier to learn and understand. Stick-on labels or dry transfer letters make labeling a fascia an easy project.